Natalya challenges AJ Lee for the WWE Divas Title at TLC, looking to regain the championship which she lost in January 2011.
• Natalya made AJ tap out to the Sharpshooter to win the 14 Diva Survivor Series match last month, then pinned AJ on the December 2 episode of Raw in a 6-Diva tag match. As a result, she was named the top contender for the Divas Championship.
• The pair fought on PPV earlier this year as part of a 4-way which also involved Naomi and Brie Bella at Night Of Champions, though this is Natalya’s first singles title challenge on PPV in three years – the last one was at Bragging Rights in October 2010, though she won her only Divas belt in a handicap match against Lay-Cool at that year’s Survivor Series.
• Before the match, AJ cut a promo saying she is the number one Diva, while the Divas division, the WWE Universe and the Total Divas show are all jokes. She then promised to retain the title and be the one who’s laughing.
• The pair started out with some fairly even exchanges, though the real action kicked off after AJ ran to the outside following a snap mare and dropkick to her back by Natalya.
• Her bodyguard Tamina Snuka stood in the path of the challenger, though a sneak attack by the champion didn’t pan out, as she was thrown into the barricade by the challenger. However, Snuka distracted Natalya as she went to return to the ring, giving AJ the chance to kick her feet off the apron.
• Back in the ring, AJ tried to wear down her larger and stronger opponent, but her overconfidence before a charge into the corner saw Natalya try to take advantage, though her slam was quickly countered into a guillotine choke.
• An AJ kick was countered to allow Natalya to rally back with clotheslines, suplexes and a sit out slam before locking in the Sharpshooter. The champion tried to struggle to the ropes but was pulled back to the centre of the ring, but managed to escape by rolling out of the hold. Another Tamina distraction gave AJ the chance to lock in the Black Widow, but it was countered by the challenger.
• A second attempt at the Sharpshooter proved to be Natalya’s undoing though, as AJ grabbed a handful of hair to cradle her for the pin.
• No complaints – this was a good match and both participants did a great job. I’d go as far as to say that it was better than AJ v Kaitlyn at Payback, which up until last night was the strongest PPV effort by the women in 2013.
• Considering AJ bringing up how long she has been champion, as well as details about a Tribute to the Troops fracas earlier this week going public – more on that in the Roundup tomorrow when all the dust has settled – there were some feeling that she would be dropping the championship. That clearly didn’t happen.
• Natalya’s been on a roll of late with good matches. It’s a welcoming sight, considering she had been pretty disappointing for the first two thirds of the year.
• I’m not sure how much of the commentary by Jerry Lawler and JBL where they took shots at AJ was genuine heat – but either way, it’s nice to see the commentators getting into the match rather than rambling about other stuff. Having said that, they did debate whether it was “moose” or “meese”, which took me back to the conversation we had with Courtney Rush on the same topic a few years ago.
• Because of the match ending thanks to a hair pull, it is possible that Natalya may get another shot at the title in the future, though we’ll wait and see on that one.
• Considering AJ has now started talking about how many days she has held the championship, we should look at what her target is to become the longest reigning Divas titleholder. January 18 is the golden date we’re looking out for, which means she’ll be the all time record holder the week before we get to the Royal Rumble.
– Lee Burton
– Photos by WWE